May 02, 2016

A look at the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors that begins Tuesday (with regular-season and playoff records):

No. 2 TORONTO RAPTORS (56-26, 4-3) vs. No. 3 MIAMI HEAT (48-34, 4-3)

Season series: Raptors, 3-1. The Heat drilled the Raptors at home in November, rolling to a 20-point victory. But DeMar DeRozan asserted himself in the remaining three games, a 108-94 win in Miami in December, a 101-81 win in Toronto on Jan. 22 and a 112-104 overtime win in March in Toronto.

Story line: The new kids on the block vs. the proud vets. DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and the Raptors ended Toronto's 15-year drought with a hard-fought win over Indiana in the first round. Now they get, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson and the battle-tested Heat, whose experience paid big dividends in overwhelming the Charlotte Hornets in their Game 7 victory.

Key Matchup: DeRozan vs. Johnson. The Raptors All-Star shooting guard was shaky in the first round, but was super-aggressive in taking 32 shots to get 30 points in the clincher against Indiana. In Toronto's three wins over the Heat in the regular season, DeRozan averaged 33.7 points and could need to carry the load again because his All-Star backcourt mate Lowry shot 33.8 percent against Miami. Johnson averaged 21.9 points to lead Brooklyn to a playoff win over Toronto in 2014 series, and averaged 25 points in his two games at Toronto this season.

X-Factor: Wade. He's not the same Flash who dominated entire series in his younger days. But he always seems to find a way to summon the big moment when the Heat need it most. His leadership and determination against a Raptors team that may still be relieved from finally getting a playoff win could provide the difference.

Prediction: Heat in 7.

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